By RUBY THOMAS
Special to The Record
Fifty-eight African American parishioners took part in a day-long archdiocesan retreat Saturday, June 23, at the Maloney Center in preparation for the upcoming National Black Catholic Congress.
The event was organized by the archdiocese’s Office of Multicultural Ministry and was the fourth in a series of sessions designed to prepare delegates for the congress, which is scheduled for July in Indianapolis.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz spoke to the group, reminding them of their unique position
going into the event.
“We in Kentucky are unique,” he said. “When you go to the congress you are not one dio-cese among many going. You are the foundation” of the congress.
The archbishop was making reference to the fact that Kentucky native Daniel Rudd founded the National Black Catholic Congress more than 100 years ago. Rudd was born in 1854 to parents who were slaves in Bardstown, Ky. Though he didn’t have much formal schooling, Rudd became a journalist and also founded the first Catholic journal to be owned by an African American.
Archbishop Kurtz encouraged the group to tap into their God-given dignity and their gift of faith in preparing for this event.
“You are a child of God with great dignity. When you go to Indianapolis, don’t leave that dignity at home,” he said. “We need you to come back on fire and willing to share so that there’s a ripple effect.”
He asked them to use the experience and knowledge they will gain in the same manner as the Paschal Candle is used during the Easter vigil.
“What happens to that church in pitch dark? It starts to glow,” the archbishop noted. “But we have to communicate. If we hide our candle under the bushel basket guess whose fault it is?”
One of the things the delegates discussed during the retreat was how to best “equip” themselves before attending the congress. Archbishop Kurtz told them that foremost in this process is reliance upon their Catholic roots and upon knowledge that this event is taking place on the cusp of the beginning of the second Year of Faith.
“ ‘Open the Door of Christ’ is the theme of the year of faith,” he said. “The ‘year of faith’ is meant for us to reclaim and announce. I am not going to announce to others unless I reclaim my faith. Unless we begin to admit the time in which our faith was not strong, we won’t be credible. We need to reclaim our faith with all the struggles it involves. We have to share the good and the bad. When we do so, then it becomes the year of faith.”
Archbishop Kurtz urged them not to underestimate the power of gatherings such as the congress. And he referred to the far-reaching effects of the 1984 pastoral letter entitled “What We’ve Seen and Heard,” from the African American bishops.
“Powerful things have come from these gatherings though it may seem like just another meeting,” he said. “You, the delegates, have an ethical responsibility to bring back and use the gifts you were given.”
Archbishop Kurtz encouraged the delegates not only to have faith in their talents, but also to put those talents to work.
“Daniel Rudd didn’t have that much schooling. He had lots of natural ability, but he took a chance. You can have all the ability in the world, but if you do not take a chance nothing will happen,” he told them. “We need to develop inner discipline and community support in order for good things to happen.”
Seventeen-year-old Stephanie Henry has the support of her parish community at St. Martin de Porres Church as she prepares to travel as one of the 76 delegates representing the archdiocese.
“Our deacon told me the experience will knock my socks off, so I plan on wearing two pairs,” she said. “I have a feeling the testimonies I will hear from people my age and older will only strengthen my faith.”
M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Office of Multicultural Ministry, said she is looking forward to all the delegates returning with renewed faith and a desire to share the experience and knowledge with the entire archdiocese.
“All participants will be exposed to some element of evangelization and presented with tools so that when they come home they will be able to share them within their parish settings and hopefully see some positive results,” she said. “In our archdiocese the overall mission is to expose our people to opportunities to deepen their faith. We never moved away from the very first congress experience once it was reinitiated over 26 years ago.
“We’ve kept the flame burning and continued having days of reflection every single year,” she added.
The Office of Multicultural Ministry is organizing an event for Dec. 1, where delegates will have the opportunity to share what they learned at the congress with people throughout the archdiocese. The National Black Catholic Congress will take place July 19 to 21.
This retreat was made possible through contributions from the Archdiocese of Louisville’s annual Catholic Services Appeal.